Cutting and the Truth of Self-Harm
Author: Justin Mckibben
Self-harm, or self-abuse, is a devastating, dangerous and sometimes deadly form of emotional distress that is too often overlooked or underestimated. Most people who struggle with self-harm keep their habit a secret, but the urge to self-harm isn’t uncommon. Adolescents and young adults are especially susceptible to these habits. Many overcome it with treatment, but not everyone gets the treatment they need because they don’t know how to get help.
Cutting is probably the most familiar form of self-harm. However, it is definitely not the only form. Self-harm essentially means you are hurting yourself on purpose. Some people will burn themselves, even pull out their own hair or pick at wounds to keep them from healing. Others may strike themselves, and some extreme injuries can result in broken bones or even worse.
So what is cutting and self-harm? Why do people do it?
What is cutting?
With cutting, the individual who is using self-harm is literally making small cuts on their body. For cutters, self-injury is a way of coping with feelings like:
The body reacts to cutting by releasing endorphins, much like addictive drugs, that create a certain sense of euphoria.
One of the most common misconceptions is that cutting is a suicide attempt. While for many people the thought of self-injury sounds like it would be, the purpose it not taking one’s own life. Many psychologists say that self-harm is a way for adolescents struggling with identity and other personal issues to control their emotional pain with a physical manifestation.
So essentially, the purpose is not to die, but to create a release. But it is a symptom of emotional pain that should definitely be taken seriously.
Self-Harm and Mental Health
Another frequent misconception is that self-harm is itself a mental illness. However self-harm is actually a behavioral issue that indicates a lack of healthy coping skills. There are some connections to self-harm and mental health, but these are through other mental illnesses such as:
- Borderline personality disorder
- Eating disorders
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Psychiatrists do believe that self-injury can have an effect similar to cocaine and other drugs that release endorphins to create a feel-good feeling. So in a way, self-harm is like a drug addiction in that it is used to deal with emotions and get outside of yourself, and it is also extremely dangerous.
Sometimes, there is a combination of mental and behavioral health disorders, in which case dual diagnosis is crucial to effective treatment and recovery. With some, drug and alcohol abuse magnify the intensity of these issues, and self-harm under the influence is significantly dangerous.
There are methods of treating self-harm that are effective and life changing. Psychotherapy is important to any treatment plan concerning such a serious emotional conflict. Developing new healthy coping mechanisms is a vast part of learning how to manage emotions. There are also several specific therapies that could help make a huge difference depending on the diagnosis.
- Psychodynamic therapy
This kind of therapy is primarily focused on exploring past experiences and emotions to seek out the root causes of some behaviors and deal with changing the association to them.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy
This is a form of therapy that centers on recognizing negative thought patterns and increasing coping skills in order to break the old habits.
When dealing with someone struggling with self-harm it is important to get the right help. Sometimes a hospitalization or even stay at a psychiatric facility is absolutely necessary for the safety of the individual. Getting help is often the catalyst to change. When self-harm is present, it is often overlying a larger condition that should definitely not go unchecked.
Self-harm generally starts in the early teen years and can persist for years. It becomes a way of dealing with emotional pain. If your loved one is in need of treatment for alcohol addiction please give us a call at 800-951-6135.